Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/714

This page has been validated.




A UNIVERSITY graduate, whose studies in psychology and philosophy have made him an observer able to see the meanings of his experiences, has furnished me with the following account of the feelings and ideas that arose in him during loss of consciousness and during return to consciousness. My correspondent, describing himself as extremely susceptible to female beauty, explains that "the girl" named in the course of the description was an unknown young lady in the railway-carriage which brought him up to town to the dentist's. He says his system resisted the influence of chloroform to such a degree that it took twenty minutes to produce insensibility: the result being that for a much longer time than usual he underwent partial hyperæsthesia instead of anæsthesia. After specifying some dreadful sensations which soon arose he goes on to say: ". . . . I began to be terrified to such a wonderful extent as I would never before have guessed possible. I made an involuntary effort to get out of the chair, and then—suddenly became aware that I was looking at nothing: while taken up by the confusion in my lungs, the outward things in the room had gone, and I was 'alone in the dark.' I felt a force on my arm (which did not strike me as the surgeon's 'hand,' but merely as an external restraint) keeping me down, and this was the last straw which made me give in, the last definite thing (smell, sound, sight, or touch) I remembered outside my own body. Instantly I was seized and overwhelmed by the panic inside. I could feel every air-cell struggling spasmodically against an awful pressure. In their struggle they seemed to tear away from one another in all directions, and there was universal racking torture, while meantime the common foe, in the shape of this iron pressure, kept settling down with more and more irresistible might into every nook and crevice of the scene. My consciousness was now about this: I was not aware of anything but an isolated scene of torture, pervaded by a hitherto unknown sense of terror (and by what I have since learned is called 'the unity of consciousness:' this never deserted the scene, even down to the very last inaudible heart-beat). Yet I call it a 'scene,' because I recognized some different parts of my body, and felt that the pain in one part was not the same as that in another. Meanwhile, along with the increased intensity of convulsion in my lungs, an element of noise had sprung up. A chaotic roaring ran through my brain, innumerable drums began to beat far inside my ear, till the confusion presently came to a monstrous thudding, every thud of which wounded me like a club falling repeatedly on the same spot. . . .

"From this stage my lungs ceased to occupy me, and I forget how